Jim stood at the top of the stairs and stared at his bed in loathing. Plagued for the past fortnight by unsettling dreams and visions, Jim had come to detest the very idea of sleep. Blair hadn't fared much better - he woke at least twice a night to check on Jim, sometimes waking his Sentinel from the nightmares, sometimes coming up the stairs in time to soothe Jim back to sleep.
Jim hated the idea that his Guide woke so often to check on him - depriving himself of a restful night by default. There was a creak from the stairs behind Jim and he turned to watch Blair walk up them, carrying a mug of hot milk dosed with vanilla. The soothing scent reached out to Jim without his conscious effort.
"Hot milk, Chief?" Jim sounded amused, "Is this one of those secret Shaman cures?"
"Yeah I chanted over it and stirred it anti clockwise," Blair cracked and Jim felt a genuine chuckle emerge. He was grateful that Blair could make him laugh and took the proffered drink, letting Blair usher him to bed. Jim had been unable to recall the dreams that disturbed him, adding frustration to his lack of sleep. Blair had peeled down the sheets and pushed Jim into bed, sitting on the mattress beside his Sentinel and taking the empty mug.
"Scoot on down now," Blair continued the mock paternal act, and Jim was only too willing to go along with it- it was an endearing effort and he appreciated Blair's efforts. William Ellison had never been a real tuck-you-in type.
"Read me a story?" Jim asked, mostly for the look Blair would get on his face and was well rewarded.
Blair put the mug on the floor and urged Jim to curl onto his side, back to him. Jim sighed when his Guide's hand started tracing circles between his shoulder blades, and felt the muscles in his body loosen.
"Once upon a time," Blair's voice was warm and soft - not the Guide Voice, a different tone. Blair's voice filled the darkness as he told Jim a fairy tale from childhood and by the end Jim was asleep.
Blair woke next morning and immediately cursed himself silently for not waking up to check on Jim. True - he'd been approaching exhaustion, but Jim should not have been left alone to face the dreams and surely would not have come down stairs for comfort. Blair wondered why he hadn't woken and stilled as he realized his Sentinel was lying beside him, head resting up against Blair's shoulder, hand on Blair's arm. Jim had turned his body in to Blair's and Blair sighed. Obviously the subconscious had taken over and Jim had climbed into bed for protection last night. The problem now was that Jim's subconscious wouldn't stick around long enough to ease any embarrassment Jim felt when he woke - and that was going to be an eleven on a scale of five!
Jim stirred and Blair used the moment to try to slip out of bed - hopefully he could fake Jim into thinking Blair had slept on the couch. No such luck, Jim reached for him, waking as he did.
"Good morning," Blair said, as if it was an everyday occurrence for the older man to climb into his roommate's bed after a nightmare. Jim frowned a little, confused.
"Sleep better?" Blair asked, deciding that plan B was to make Jim think this was all Blair's idea. Jim woke up a little and realized where he was. He pulled Blair closer and smothered his face in Blair's chest. Blair put his arms around Jim and stroked his shoulders and back.
"Bad one, huh?" all idea of lying went out of his head as he tried to comfort Jim.
"Peru - we should go to Peru. I dreamed of Peru. The others will be there too," Jim's voice was muffled but rational.
"Ok," Blair agreed, not pressing for details, "I'll call Simon - you know he's been worried. Then I'll try to get us a flight to Peru."
He made as if to slide out of bed and Jim's grip tightened. Blair settled back and waited until Jim could stand to let go. He
hoped that this wasn't some long delayed reaction to the whole mess with Alex Barnes. Either way they'd go to Peru.
Blair slept uneasily on the plane. Never a good flyer, the nightmare that had put Jim in his bed had now attached itself to Blair. The night after Jim had clambered into Blair's bed Blair had taken his pillow upstairs and settled in with Jim for the night, a proceeding which Jim had felt a little embarrassed but very relieved over. That night Jim had snuggled into Blair's chest and slept through without a single dream.
Jim listened to Blair's uneasy mumbles and twitched the blanket on Blair's lap a little higher. A fold of the blanket hid Jim's hand from view - that hand was holding Blair's in an effort to stem the fright of take off and flight. Jim wondered if he was embarrassed at showing publicly how he felt for Blair - even after all these years and experiences they'd shared. Jim twitched the fold of blanket away from his hand and leaned back in his cramped seat, wishing he were Blair's shorter height for a change.
The grip on his hand tightened and Blair twitched and shuddered powerfully, his heart rate spiking.
"Blair," Jim said softly, trying to wake his partner without scaring him further, "Blair, you ok?"
A flight steward hurried towards them, concern on his face when Blair moaned.
"Chief!" Jim commanded, "Wake up!"
Blair's eyes popped open and he slumped back in his seat. His breathing was ragged.
"Sorry," Blair apologized carefully, "Sorry."
"Are you all right, sir?" the steward asked and Blair nodded. He was blushing and gripping Jim's hand pretty tightly.
"A bottle of water would be appreciated," he told the steward, "It's just an old nightmare."
"Certainly, sir," the steward hurried away and returned with the bottle and a glass full of ice chips. He handed them to Jim, and left them to recover. Jim twisted the bottle cap off one handed and poured the water out, giving the glass to Blair and stroking the back of Blair's hand with his thumb as Blair sipped at the water and stared at the carpet in the aisle, slowing his breathing and loosening his grip.
"Want to tell me about it?" Jim asked and Blair shook his head. The Guide smiled at Jim genuinely and let go, finishing the water and putting the glass in the indentation in the tray.
"Like I said, an old nightmare - don't worry about it," Blairs voice was strong, but not loud. The steward walked by, rather obviously and Blair giggled.
"I wonder what would happen if I clutched my heart and fell into the aisle?" he sounded natural again and Jim growled at him.
"I'll personally use you as a punching bag and let all the passengers here have a go too," he replied and settled back into the miserably small seat.
"Actually, Jim, no-one would let you. You see in close quarters like this people rapidly develop a miniature society of their own…." Blair launched into lecture mode without pause and Jim was glad to listen. If the kid could lecture him then there couldn't be anything too badly wrong. The anthropologist had decreased his tendency to lecture after being awarded his doctorate. On the other hand his tendency to write everything down had increased. Jim figured that Dr. Sandburg was finding his superiors at the PD to be avid readers of anything that related to his unique field. Sometimes it hurt to think that the only people reading of Blair's genius were politically motivated cops, but hadn't there been a rumor that the Commander of the Academy wanted Blair to teach a course there?
Blair transferred the blanket from his lap to Jims and smiled without interrupting his monologue. The tactic had worked - his voice had soothed the Sentinel into sleep, hopefully one free of nightmares.
Jim stepped up to the reception desk in the hotel and waited for the dark eyed girl to notice him. He'd slept soundly on the flight, listening to Blair talk the whole time. When he woke he realised that Blair's lecture had drawn in the attention of the people across the aisle and the seats in front and behind him. He had teased Blair that the Doctor should charge a fee and the audience had laughed when Blair flushed.
He was looking around the foyer now - a sunny place with plants strategically placed to shade couches and phones. It was a modern hotel with pictures of temples on the walls, and Blair was making disapproving noises in his throat that only Jim could hear.
"Good afternoon sir, may I help you?" the receptionist's voice was pleasant and polished.
"Good afternoon. You have reservations for Jim Sentinel and Blair Guide?" Jim asked, and was aware of Blair staring at him in astonishment, before schooling his voice into acceptance of his new name.
"Oh yes, the joint family reunion. I have two adjoining rooms for you sir, if you'd like to sign in?" she didn't even blink at the unusual names and the partners signed in. They received their keys and she handed over nametags and an itinerary for them. Blair contained himself until they were in the privacy of his room - having opened the connecting doors.
"Where'd the names come from?" Blair let his tone be accusing and Jim folded his arms in defense.
"The dream," Jim replied flatly, "It was in the dream. I told you that the others would be here."
"Other Guides and Sentinels," Blair shook his head, "Suddenly I wish I'd just committed you in Cascade instead of coming out here."
"What! Blair that's a little extreme, don't you think?" Jim protested and Blair shivered, wrapping his arms around his body. Jim put his hands on Blair's shoulders and squeezed. He knew that Blair would never have let him go insane in Cascade.
"It's not going to be another Alex," Jim vowed, and Blair smiled at his Sentinel, knowing that even after all these years Jim still freaked at the thought of Alex Barnes and her homicidal tendencies. He caught the pain in Jim's eyes and changed the subject for his Sentinel.
"When do we have to be downstairs for our family reunion?" he asked and Jim let go to look at the itinerary on Blair's table.
"Five thirty for six o'clock," Jim cocked an eyebrow at his partner, "Did you bring a tie?"
They wore their nametags, though Jim fussed about it until Blair threatened to stick it in a very illogical place. The two rooms adjoined a larger dining area, and one had 'Sentinel' taped up on the door, the other 'Guide'. Jim hesitated outside the door and Blair gave him a strong nudge.
"See you at dinner, Jim. Go and be sociable," the Guide smiled and turned, walking quickly down the corridor and into the Guide room without pause. The Sentinel sighed and stepped inside.
Blair grinned at the six people inside the room - a mix of races and gender. A mix of ages and personalities too.
"Blair," he identified himself and was waved in by the others.
"That makes all of us," one of the men said and Blair closed the door, scooped up a bottle of water and joined them in the windows.
"Hi," he said to the nervous teenager standing next to him. She blinked in apprehension and pushed stringy black hair off her face. She was thin and generally untidy; despite wearing what cops called 'good clothes'.
"Hi," her voice was hesitant, "I…"
"What's wrong?" Blair said gently, and laid a hand on her shoulder carefully.
"Its just that I'm not quite sure what we're doing here," she blurted out, "I mean my best friend's brother was freaking out on them, and I managed to calm him down - he said I helped him control all the sensitivity. Then he started having dreams and we ended up here."
Her nametag said Ebony and Blair noticed the other Guides all moving to reassure her - it was instinctual.
"So you've been a Guide for a few weeks?" Blair asked and Ebony nodded.
"And your Sentinel is?" he prodded. Ebony frowned at the unusual name and then her face cleared.
"Sean," Ebony's face softened at the thought of her partner and Blair smiled too, "What's a Sentinel?"
"A Sentinel is a person whose five senses are much sharper than a normal person's. They require a Guide - someone to watch their back and teach them how to use their senses without becoming overwhelmed," Blair told her, and the other Guides nodded. Blair had a fair idea that this was news to two of them, but didn't want to call them on it - obviously not everyone read as much as he did.
"So I'm a Guide?" Ebony smiled, "Wow! I can really help him?"
"We all have. I've been a Guide for two years now," the speaker was a willowy woman with red hair boiling fiercely away from her head. Her skin was very pale and freckled; her English accent spoke of London's East End. Her nametag was stuck to the front of glittery material and said Sarah.
"And me," said the burly man beside her - an Asian with spiky hair and a linen suit. His nametag said Lee and his voice was very deep.
"I've been a Guide for three years," laughed the man in the Hawaiian shirt. His straight hair was pulled back in a pony tail and his shorts showed legs with muscles like little lumps. A wispy goatee completed the look. His nametag read Tom.
"I outrank you - four years and counting," his name was Charlie and he laughed deeply at them; he was barrel chested, tree trunk thighs and bulging biceps. Blair grinned at him.
"Well if we're talking rank then I win - twenty-six years and counting. We've been partners since we were four - when she fully emerged as a Sentinel," Rory was a tall black man with short cropped hair and a very serene groove.
"Wow, twenty-six whole years!" Ebony grinned, "Do Sentinels last that long?"
"Sentinels are for life," Rory rumbled, "As long as they choose to be."
Obviously someone else had had the troubles and dreams Jim had early on in their partnership. Did all Sentinels lose their abilities and go through an initiation like that?
"So where do you rank?" Sarah asked Blair, who laughed at them. As if there was rank among Guides and Sentinels.
"Eight years and counting," he replied with a smile. Rory dropped a hand on his shoulder and Blair looked up at the tall man.
"But while we will Guide our Sentinels through this mission, Blair will Guide and save us all. He is the Shaman of our dream," Rory told the others and a chill ran up Blair's spine as they all stared at him. For a moment he thought Sarah mouthed the words 'the wolf', but he wasn't sure.
"Man, if our Sentinels could see us now they'd laugh themselves into a coma," Rory took his hand and the pressure off Blair as the others laughed.
They began swapping stories and techniques with each other, laughing at the similarities in their experience, and trying not
to freak the new Guide out.
Jim looked at the other six people in the room and knew them to be Sentinels. Panther growls sounded in his ears for a moment before a lithe white woman laughed and waved him over.
"Stop it," she told everyone, "No-one has territory here."
"Jim Ellison," he introduced himself.
"Terry Carson," she replied, and they shook hands. A teenager stirred against the wall and Terry shot him a smile.
"This is Paul. He emerged as a Sentinel a few months ago," she said to Jim, and he instantly understood why the youngster was so nervous - all his senses would be redlining and his Guide was in another room.
The other Sentinels stepped forward and said hello.
There was a short silence. Everyone stood still and looked around awkwardly.
Jim extended his hearing to check on Blair. His Guide was laughing at something, and others were laughing with him. They sounded relaxed and calm.
"Trust our Guides to be having a good time," Terry laughed and the others opened their hearing too.
Judging by the tentativeness the others showed Jim could place how long they'd been Sentinels and how far their training had progressed. He catalogued them and noticed Terry doing the same. She was more experienced than Jim was, he realised and she winked at him. He was a street ahead of the others, but she was a city ahead of him.
"Trust our Guides to break the ice," Jim grinned and the kid laughed, "Mine would talk under wet cement if he had the chance."
The Sentinels laughed and began to swap Guide stories.
By the time the maitre de let the two family groups into the dining room they were comfortable enough with each other to be relaxed about meeting their partners. Dinner was not noisy, but not quiet either as the two groups exchanged friendly 'see what I mean' looks with each other. After dinner they retired to the pool. After dinner drinks and general chitchat kept them occupied for a few hours and then everyone retired for the night. Jim and Blair had their doors open again as they got ready for bed. Something told Jim he would be all right tonight - no more nightmares would bother him. He was worried about Blair though, so he'd keep the door open.
Someone knocked on Blair's door and the Guide opened it without taking any of the precautions that Jim had tried to instill in his partner. Eight years had done little to change the trusting nature of Blair, though he had toughened a little.
"Ebony!" Blair sounded surprised and stood aside to let the Asian woman in. Her Sentinel's name was Sean and Blair settled them both into the chairs the hotel had provided. He sat on the corner of the bed, so they formed a triangle, and smiled at Sean's uncommunicative expression.
"So, Ebony. What's up?" he asked the Guide. It was obviously her idea to come here.
"I want you to be Sean's Guide," Ebony blurted, "I don't know enough to help him out - I mean really help him, and you know so much. You could probably teach him how to be a good Sentinel and I'd be really grateful. I could work with Jim - he could teach me how to be a proper Guide."
Blair sat still and let her get it all out. The shadow at the door told him that Jim was listening.
"No," Blair said simply, "Ebony - I'm a doctor of anthropology. I'd read about Sentinels long before I met Jim. I'd even found evidence of one or two people with a single heightened sense…"
"But I didn't even know that Sean was a Sentinel," Ebony protested, "How can I be a Guide when I don't know what I'm doing."
"Ebony - I didn't know what I was doing at first either. Sure, I read a lot and tried to teach Jim from what I'd learned and what I'd experienced in my own life … but there were days when I wondered if I was going to kill him with my ignorance," Blair kept his voice gentle. He grinned at her; "I can lend you all the books you'd ever want, if it's knowledge you want."
"But Sean needs…"
"Besides," Blair overrode her in the stern voice that had pulled several errant citizens into line over the years. It worked here too, "There's one very important fact that you're overlooking."
Ebony made a hopeless gesture and Blair leaned forward, smiling at Sean and touching Ebony on the knee.
The emotions blowing around the room were exhausting.
"When Sean first began having problems - did his family try to help?"
"Yeah," Sean spoke up for the first time, "They couldn't help. Their voices and hands hurt me even though they were trying to be gentle."
"But you Ebony, you got through to him. You could soothe things down when he couldn't. It's your voice and your smell and your touch that calls him back. And no matter how much I know about Sentinels and no matter how much experience I've had I won't be able to Guide Sean now. Because he'll always be waiting for you to pull him out," Blair's voice filled the room with certainty and support. Jim chose to enter now, and he sat on the bed beside his friend.
"I've pulled out of zones for other people before - our colleagues are well versed in Guiding me," Jim spoke up, "But it's Sandburg here who knows me best - I can find him no matter where I am, no matter how deep I go."
"You're an anthropologist too?" Ebony frowned.
"No. I'm a cop," Jim frowned, "Sandburg joined the cops after a nasty little mess of our own making. He got his doctorate at about the same time."
"The Guide and the Sentinel stay together. No matter what," Blair was glad that Jim's hand was on his shoulder. He saw Sean's face light up as Blair verbalized the instinct that he'd been unable to explain to Ebony.
"I'm guessing here, but part of the problem in Sean's family right - they don't understand why you could reach him and they couldn't. It's caused tension, right?" Blair smiled, "Don't fret about it. In a few months they'll have accepted things and it'll all blow over. Do you two have a job in mind for the future?"
"I don't know," Sean replied, "Something I can use my senses for."
"It's an instinct of the Sentinel to protect the tribe," Blair told him, "It's genetic. Maybe you two could go into Search and Rescue or something like that - Jim's a cop, but there's more to life than police work."
"That's what he says," Jim grumbled, amused, "But you should see him in pursuit of a suspect."
Blair laughed and shrugged, Ebony and Sean joining in. The future opened up for the new Sentinel and his Guide.
"So, why are we all gathered here today?" Terry asked over breakfast, "I thought we'd have some kind of dream last night that would tell us all the details, but there was nothing."
"Best night we've had in a while," Rory nodded.
"It's the Temple," Blair blurted, "I think we have to go to the Temple of Light."
Silence for a moment then Sarah laughed nervously.
"This is starting to sound like an Indiana Jones movie," she blurted and Blair smiled.
"It's a temple dedicated to Sentinels - Jim and I have been there before," he explained, trying to ignore the reasons behind their last trip and the nightmare on the plane.
"So how do we get to the temple?" Sean asked and pulled a face, "We don't have to ride llama's or something?"
This earned him a laugh and Jim shook his head.
"We charter a helicopter to take us?" Charlie guessed his hand on his still sleepy Sentinels shoulder. Obviously there was a possible zone here, and Charlie was pre-empting it with touch.
"We hike in," Blair told them, "It's not far and we should be able to do it by tomorrow night if we leave today."
Silence greeted that statement. A few people shifted nervously.
"We didn't exactly kit up for a jungle trek before coming," Sean told Blair, "And it's a jungle out there - shouldn't we have weapons and stuff?"
"We will kit up before we go - and we'll have enough protection with us. If seven Sentinels can't detect and avoid danger in the jungle then we're in real trouble," Blair's voice was serene with an edge of steel behind it. He was determined and wouldn't stop until they'd all been bullied into agreeing to go - Jim recognized that in a heartbeat. Fortunately the Guides all seemed to understand because they started whispering to their Sentinels - persuading them, Jim realised when he selectively extended his hearing.
Blair sat still and focussed, meeting eyes and exuding strength. Jim put a hand on his shoulder and Blair shot him a glance and a smile that no one missed.
By just after lunchtime they were walking into the jungle from the road where they'd parked the vehicles that Blair had suggested they hire to cut down on the travel time. They spread into a double line, Sentinel and Guide, Jim leading the way from memory and Blair walking beside him easily - just as if this was another weekend hike. The smells and sights of the jungle greeted Jim like old friends - after all this had been the place where he re-emerged as a Sentinel for a short time. Incacha had taught him to control things there and he'd switched his senses off when he left.
Ebony's Guide Voice intruded on Jim's memories and he turned to see Sean wavering on the path. The others broke formation to drink, ease their packs, answer the call of nature and generally take a breather. Sean regained control and sneaked a look around to see if anyone was laughing at his inexperience. No one was - they'd all been there before. The youngster took a deep breath and accepted the water Ebony offered.
"We'll walk another few hours and then set up camp," Jim told the others, "The temple is another day away."
"Ok," Sean spoke up and Ebony smiled as she urged her partner to move into place behind Blair and Jim.
"So how come you've been here before?" Sean asked and Jim told him about his days as a Ranger in these jungles and then their return together in pursuit of Alex. The words just tumbled out of him in a stream, unstoppable. He'd never been able to explain this fully to Simon or even discuss it with Conner, and he'd been reluctant to rake up old wounds with Blair. It was almost cathartic to explain to another Sentinel and Guide why this Temple held such an uncertain place in his heart.
A few more hours of walking and the sun went down. They found a good spot to light a fire and make some dinner. Blair had made sure that what they brought had the least amount of packaging possible, not wanting to ruin the area by leaving rubbish behind. After dinner everyone was restless, and there was just enough light from the full moon for the Guides to see. After a little discussion they decided to push on. The Sentinels took hold of their Guides arm or hand to prevent stumbles and Jim led them to the ridge, deciding to camp on the other side. He sent Blair up first to prevent any falls and when Blair reached the top he stood and stretched, his face to the stars, his head framed by the full moon. For a moment Jim expected him to howl like a wolf - there was something lupine about the stance and Blair's face. Then the Guide relaxed and moved ahead. A glance behind showed Jim that the others had seen this too.
They reached the Temple late in the afternoon. Jim pulled Blair a little behind him - uneasy about letting the Guide get too close.
"Why do I feel so nervous?" Ebony mumbled and Sean stepped in front of her, shielding her from the temple. The others were doing similar things, almost unconsciously.
"We're not supposed to be here - this is a place for Sentinels only," Rory's voice was hushed and several of the Guides nodded.
"Discrimination!" Sarah complained uncomfortably and earned herself a breath of laughter from the others. Blair put a hand on Jim's pack and urged him to take it off. The taller man handed it over wordlessly and started walking up the steps of the Temple.
"Stay dry Jim," Blair warned him as the other Sentinels walked up too. Their packs had been left with their partners. Jim nodded with a little glance.
"We'll be right here," Blair added and moved away to sit near the entrance to the clearing. The others moved to join him as a jaguar growled deep in the Temple.
From a short distance away two men with binoculars cursed and headed back to camp to get their guns.
It was well and truly dark by the time the Sentinels emerged from the Temple - a little dazed, but all right. None of the Guides pressed for details. Whatever had happened in there was private; they'd be told what was necessary. They led the Sentinels back along the trail to a clearing and set up camp. A fire and quiet meal was followed by half of the group immediately going to sleep and the other half looking at each other in puzzlement.
"So does this mean we can go home tomorrow?" Tom asked quietly and Blair shrugged, looking down at Jim. He was sleeping peacefully and deeply, for the first time in a while.
"They'll tell us in the morning I guess. A word to the wise - don't wander off tonight. This close to the Temple they'll be a little more skittish," Blair remembered Jim's dream that his Guide had gone missing close to the Temple and his reaction to that. The others nodded. There was obviously something on their minds here, and Blair wondered what the fallout from Jim's tale was going to be. He'd never heard Jim be so open about what had happened at the Temple.
"Blair - why did Alex try to kill you like that? Weren't you her Guide too?" Tom asked now and Blair sighed. He'd given this a lot of thought since his death.
"I guess that I wasn't the right Guide. She was reacting to the Shaman side of the deal; it disturbs Jim sometimes too. And she wanted Jim. I was in the way of that. In the end she was just too far-gone for me to reach her and I guess she killed me because of that. I didn't have what she needed, because I was so connected to Jim," Blairs voice was a shrug. It wasn't much of an answer but it was the best he could do.
The others nodded as if he'd just made sense and settled down to sleep. No one noticed the fire flaring oddly when the gas hit it. The sickly smell that wafted through the clearing went unremarked. The rough hands of strangers pulling them away from the camp and supplies and dragging them away in all directions went unfelt. By dawn all that remained of the camp was the dead fire and their belongings.
Blair woke up and regretted it. His head spun, his eyes hurt, he was sick to the stomach and lying on an anthill to boot. Blair rolled off the anthill and threw up. This reminded him of the side effects to chloroform and he hoped that Jim was handling it ok. Jim was nowhere nearby and Blair wiped his mouth before staggering to his feet. The camp and the others were nowhere in sight, but Blair recognized his location anyway. To the left there would be the river with its waterfall that Jim had shown him. So to the right would be the Temple. Blair headed to the right - figuring that everyone else would eventually head there too. Jim definitely would and that was all that mattered. Once Blair and his Sentinel were reunited they'd be able to find and help the others.
There was no one at the Temple when Blair got there and he sat on the steps near the entrance - all the while wishing the stones would give him a break and not lurch about like they were. There was a noise nearby and Blair tensed then hid in the doorway. He watched two men - obviously their assailants - stroll out of the jungle and stop at the bottom of the stairs anyway.
"I don't know," the one on the left said uneasily, "This place gives me the creeps."
"Look, the oil company pays us good enough money for what we do, but don't you want a bit extra?" the one on the right countered, "The way the natives avoid this place it'll be months before anyone notices we've taken stuff from here. There'll be no proof."
"Yeah," Left cheered up and Blair's blood boiled - he had to get the Sentinels here now! This was what the Temple had called them for!
"Besides the company is clearing out the Topec today - you want to be around for that?" Right added and started up the steps.
Blair flew into the darkness of the Temple - looking for a weapon that would slow the men down so he could warn the Topec, gather the Sentinels. There was nothing he could see immediately so Blair hurried back to the door and simply shoved Right down the steps, into Left and crashing to the bottom. He used vines from a convenient tree to tie the two men up and headed back into the Temple. He sat in the doorway and tried to clear his mind. It was a long shot, but perhaps he'd be able to call Jim through the link they shared. He couldn't wait any longer for his friend to find him. The noise of insects and the smell of the plants around him crowded in close to Blair, drowning him in their impact while the stones beneath him leached all of the warmth from his body. Unable to concentrate Blair shook his head and growled in frustration and stood up. This was going to take extreme measures.
Once inside the Temple Blair skirted the main halls and headed for the chamber where Alex had tried to overload Jim's senses. The pools were there, still and deep, the same temperature as blood. Blair hesitated a moment, then climbed in, allowing himself to float easily in the water. Things began to slide away and Blair cleared his mind again, reaching for Jim.
The wolf found six of the jaguars one by one, sick and disoriented. It marked their place and went looking for their partners. One by one it reunited the horse, bear, owl, panther, hawk, and huge dog with their jaguar, watching them heal each other from a distance.
The seventh jaguar was already moving, unwell but trying to heal. The wolf leapt into its path and they collided, merging for a moment. The jaguar leached strength from the wolf and purred as they parted.
The wolf howled, summoning the others and leading the pack towards the Topec village - scattering the attackers as they went, ensuring the safety of its charges.
The battle was fierce, but monstrously unfair as the wolf tipped the pack off to danger and threats.
The last of the foe were vanquished and the wolf gathered the pack for the last time. As the pack watched the wolf's fur drenched and the wolf yelped, twisting and disappearing.
Jim led the way to the Temple at a run, instincts leading him when reason failed. He was vaguely aware of Topec warriors running with them. He ran up the steps to the temple, skirting the lengths of knotted and cut vine at the base of the steps and into the main hall. There was no one there - but splashing water echoed through the corridors and Jim slid down them, running desperately.
Blair lay in one of the pools, two men holding him down under the water. The Guide had been struggling, but now he shuddered and went still, sinking to the bottom.
Jim's raw scream of anger scared Blair's assailants motionless for a moment - long enough for him to get in striking distance. They fought savagely, knocking Jim hard into the side of one of the pools before the others arrived and took them down hard, the Topec warriors securing their two new prisoners with the vines they'd only just cut off.
Jim leaned over the pool, grabbing at Blair and trying to pull the cumbersome body up into his arms. Something in his ribs popped and his side flared in agony. Blair slipped away as Jim cried out and Ebony grabbed him, cushioning his fall with Sean. Rory and Tom pulled Blair out and Terry and Arthur took the limp body to the floor starting heart massage and breathing in quick succession.
Jim moaned and reached for his Guide - their worst nightmare came to pass again. Jim knew that this was what Blair had dreamed about on the plane - the old nightmare of drowning and Sentinels connected. Sean tried to block his view of the frantic efforts, but Ebony shook her head. She let Jim sit up and put her arm firmly around him when he sagged.
Terry and Arthur kept the desperate cadence going as Jim put his fingers to Blair's temple.
"Incacha - help us!" Jim pleaded, but there was no familiar shaman nearby.
"Blair - stay with me," Jim cried, "Breathe! Please Chief! Stay with me!"
The body under their hands heaved and spewed water, gasping for air and struggling back to life. They propped him up and let him breathe. Terry ran her fingers over Jim's ribs and nodded.
"Cracked, but not broken. I want you to hold him up while we make a stretcher - we've got to get Blair to hospital immediately. Keep talking to him, see if you can get him to wake up," she said, "Ebony and Sean will stay with you."
Jim pulled the precious body into his arms and ran his fingers over Blair's face and chest, whispering to his Guide as he did. He could hear the water in Blair's lungs and tried to keep the fear from his voice.
They walked all night and day to return to the vehicles, taking turns to carry the stretcher. Jim took a corner at Blair's head the entire way and refused to budge - so they doubled up on his corner to prevent accidents.
They drove at full speed to civilization, Jim holding Blair in his arms the whole way. It took some doing to get him to surrender Blair to doctors at the hospital - Terry had to pry his fingers open, while Rory whispered in his ear about following Blair's heartbeat through the corridors.
After a few painful hours of separation Jim was led to Blair's bed and he sat as close as he could, stroking the pale arm and
whispering to him soothingly.
Captain Banks stood at the arrival gate and scanned anxiously for his friends. He didn't know what had happened in Peru to hospitalize Sandburg with pneumonia but he knew that something strange had been going on. He'd had a very strange call from someone called Ebony, who'd explained that the Sentinels and Guides had run into a hitch and they'd all be coming to Cascade when Blair was better.
Now Simon was waiting for their flight to arrive, very nervous at the thought of having more than one Sentinel in his city. A crowd of people walked slowly down the corridor, carrying bags and laughing at something.
Jim could be seen in the middle, supporting someone tenderly and Simon realised it was Blair - an emaciated, pale man who was unsteady on his feet but laughing too. The whole group was speaking in a language Simon didn't understand - Jim included.
Jim spotted Simon and said something that made everyone look over and smile at him. The body language snapped into place and Simon easily distinguished the Sentinels from the Guides.
I'm going to regret this, Simon thought happily and moved forward to greet his two friends and their companions.
Comments, criticism, suggestions? Please e-mail Shedoc.